By Kevin Aldridge
Enquirer staff writer
Cincinnati City Councilman John Cranley said Monday that council shouldn't flip-flop on its commitment to add more police officers to the streets.
Cranley, chairman of council's finance committee, introduced a motion stating that council should make crime-fighting its top priority in the next two-year budget. He proposed that council pass a budget that includes two police recruit classes in 2005 and 2006.
Cranley said the classes would ensure that the city reached its goal - set in 2001 - of maintaining a staff of 1,075 police officers. There are currently 1,054 officers in the Cincinnati Police Department.
Cranley's call for more officers comes at a time when the city is experiencing an increase in homicides - 58 through Monday compared with 48 at this time in 2003. The city's crime problem was magnified again recently when a 17-year-old Elder High School student was gunned down on Glenway Avenue in Price Hill.
"We are under siege, and we need help," said Cranley, who lives in Price Hill. "I see a police force that is overworked while homicides are (rising). This is not about changing a strategy but keeping with a strategy."
The city delayed a police-recruit class scheduled for last month in an effort to save $400,000 and reduce a projected $7.8 million deficit in the general fund budget this year. The class, which typically graduates about 30 officers, will be combined with the city's first police recruit class in 2005.
The city traditionally has two police recruit classes each year at a cost of $600,000 not including the salary and benefits of officers (between $50,000 and $60,000 an officer) after they graduate. The classes help the city deal with an average yearly attrition of about 50 officers.
Vice Mayor Alicia Reece reminded the committee that council turned down a black-on-black violence initiative proposed this year by the four African-American members of council.
"We brought a plan, and you didn't like that. But where is the alternative plan?" Reece said. "Residents want the crime stopped today."
Reece and Councilman Sam Malone introduced a motion to immediately reinstitute the city's anti-gang unit and establish a homicide task force.
The motion was referred to the law and public safety committee, which meets today. Council is likely to vote on both motions Wednesday.
Several residents from Price Hill, Northside and Westwood spoke in support of adding police officers.
"This (violence) is no longer acceptable," said Don Driehaus, of Price Hill. "Is the answer more police? I don't know. But anything we can do to focus and bring this crime situation under control, we need to do it."
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